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Nostalgia and happiness as Javier Sotomayor retires

Nostalgia and happiness as Javier Sotomayor retires
Javier Clavelo Robinson for the IAAF
15 October 2001 – Havana -  Cuban Javier Sotomayor celebrated his 34th birthday on Saturday with a mixture of happines and nostalgia as he decided to end a 23-year career that crowned him as the best high jumper of all times.

“We all have to retire some day, time passes, it’s inevitable”, stated Sotomayor in Havana during the presentation of the Cuban baseball team that will represent the Island in the World Championships in Taiwan in November.

He was accompanied by other famous Cuban sportspeople such as 9-time world long jump champion Ivan Pedroso, two-time 800m world champion Ana Fidelia Quirot and three-time Olynpic gold medalists Mireya Luis (volleyball) and Felix Savon (boxing).

“I believe many people were surprised by the news.  It is my own personal decision and it’s due to the frequent injuries I have suffered in the last few years, specially in my tendons”, added “Soto”, as everybody calls him here.

After finishing fourth in the World Championships in Edmonton, in August, he started to think more about retirement.  “This is a very painful moment, I was sure this day would arrive, but you never want that to happen”.

However, he admitted training is becoming more demanding for him to stay at the world-class level. That means jumping 2.35 or more, as he did this year, two weeks before his last meeting in Yokohama, Japan, where he won with 2.31 on September 15.

In his 23-year career, Sotomayor won all high jump titles, including seven world crowns (two outdoor, four indoor and one junior), the Olympic gold in Barcelona’92 and a World Cup triumph in London’94.

Moreover, he set five world records, including the still standing 2.43 indoor and 2.45 outdoor, among other merits which enabled him to be the first and only Latin American sports person to ever receive the Principe de Asturias Award from the hands of the Spanish Royal family in Oviedo, Asturias, Spain, in 1993.

On 21 occasions he cleared 2.40, a height only achieved by eight other men ever and his best year was 1994, when he won 30 out of 31 competitions.

“I have already though of my future, I want to continue being involved in the sport and will take a course and then work for the Cuban Athletic Federation”.

He is expected to accompany Montreal ’76 double Olympic gold winner Alberto Juantorena, vice-president of the Cuban Institute of Sports (INDER) and IAAF Council Member, to a European Athletics Conference in Moscow, in November.

Born on October, 13, 1967 in Limonar, Matanzas, 150km west of Havana, Sotomayor began athletics in 1978 and made his international debut in Mexico, in June, 1983.

His most critical moment was 1999, after winning the Pan American Games in Winnipeg, Canada. He was stripped of the title after cocaine was detected in his urine sample.

He immediately denied the result of the test, stating that he did not need to take drugs to jump 2.30, a height he has cleared more than 230 times.

“I have only seen cocaine in movies”, he said then.

His position was supported by the Cuban people and government.

He was suspended for two years, but the IAAF Council invoked “exceptional circumstances” to reduce his ban to one and he was thus eligible to complete in the 2000 Sydney Olympics, taking silver.

The only human being able to jump over eight feet (2,44), the height of a football goal post, has a BA degree in Physical Education, is married to former high jumper Maria del Carmen Garcia, silver medalist in Havana’91 Pan Am Games; the couple have two children.